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Authored by: irrelevations
Out of Focus: Jesus and the Self Flushing Toilet
Note: In this series of entries, I will pull from the materials I have gathered to write a book about my experience working as an agnostic/secular humanist at two major evangelical Christian non-profits, while my marriage to a dogmatic atheist fell apart. Along the way, I will veer into why I never wanted to move to Colorado Springs, why I now adore it, raising a non-religious kid an an overtly conservative/religious city, and some other peripherally related life adventures.
Intro here: Out of Focus: Intro
Out of Focus: Intro Read on irrelevations.kinja.com
I am a martini swilling heathen, a lapsed Irish Catholic from Boston. I am non-religious, bordering on atheism, but with secular humanist and vague philosophically Buddhist leanings. I am loud, irreverent, outspoken, adore stilettos, and routinely use words others consider 'bad' because, as I insist frequently, words can have no inherent positive or negative value.
I am standing outside the main building on the multi-building, multi-acre Focus on the Family campus in north Colorado Springs, trying to overcome enough of my nervousness to walk in the door for my first day on a new contract.
I am a hypocrite – I insist words have no inherent positive or negative value, but the words Focus on the Family, the phrase evangelical Christians, the concept Para-church organization – these all send chills up my spine. Still, I am aware on some level that I am struggling with connotative and denotative meanings, and that the way I am feeling is larger on some scale than how I frequently make others feel with a well placed F-bomb. But none of my thoughts help, really.
As previously mentioned, I am a hypocrite for even being here, for taking this gig for the money. I am the last person who belongs in a Christian organization.
I am scared. Not of the people inside the building, not really. But in some sense, yes, of the people – I have in the last week since accepting this contracting gig built the idea of evangelicals, of an Evangelical Organization into a concept something like invading aliens, and have come to view myself as an encroacher, an infiltrator, and wonder how long it will take until someone looks at me and calls me out, recognizes me as Other. In my life, the people in this building are Other. Them. I am Us. But they – if they knew me, they would reject me and cast me away, or maybe they would embrace me so hard my mouth would open involuntarily to accept the offerings of Kool Ade, and I would be culted, never more to return from the mists of missionary work.
I am scared but I am also overly dramatic. I am used to myself. I tell myself to suck it up. I can do this. For at least the morning. Or maybe the day. Or the week.
I have taken great care with my appearance. Normally a fan of highly stylized black suits and heels which are slightly too high and too sexy for corporate work, (but which I wear anyway, because why not), today I am a study in beige. Beige to me is almost a non-color, almost the color of my skin. It is the color of blending in, the color of taming down, the color of no discernible personality. I am big loud colors. Beige is the inverse of me, the UN me, or the closest I can get to not being me. In my mind, I have come to the conclusion that I can only manage this contract if I find a way to not be myself, to sublimate almost the entirety of my personality, and let only my brains out to play. And when I say play, I mean in a boring, non-joke cracking, respectful almost completely silent way. So beige. Beige blazer. Beige matching knee length skirt. Stockings, which I have been advised to wear no matter my preference, so I will not stand out. They are beige as well, but match my slightly beige complexion. I have, on my feet, low heeled beige pumps, a color and style that has never been in my wardrobe since, and which I made a special trip to Kmart for – nothing like this was sold anywhere I regularly shopped. My unruly curls have been sort of straightened and scraped back into a low ponytail.
I have on pale pink lipstick, for fuck's sake. I am disappeared.
I am as visually not me as I can possibly be. I am ready. Deep breath – walk in….
Anti-climactic. Whew. It's a business. With a giant cavern of a lobby and security guards and receptionists and sign ins and badges. One of the reception folks calls my soon-to-be boss – she will come get me in a few moments. It is 9 am and the day's work is well under way. This has a familiar feel, the bustling workplace. I feel ridiculously relieved. Then I see a group to my left . A tour group. Okay – some offices run tours…
They stop and stare at a spot on the wall, a bit of wall which in my memory has a frame around it but in reality may not be called out in this way. The tour guide is telling a story…about the time a shooter entered the lobby and tried to kill Dr. James Dobson. They have left the bullet hole in the wall as a testimony of sorts.
To be clear, I have researched this story to see if there was any media. I can't find any documentation or news articles. My notes from that time indicate that I did hear this story. I do not know if it was true or not. But I do know that I heard it. And. Okay.
The faithful are appalled and stare at the wall, murmuring. I look away. Shootings happen, I suppose. I am nervous again. Shootings happen, but not in offices where I work. Somehow this makes sense in my head, though I know no one, no business, no space is really safe from violence if someone wants to commit the act. I am saved from this train of thought by my new boss, a lovely tiny woman with an infectious smile (to whom I still speak from time to time). I spend the next hour or so in a familiar routine – orientation, computer log ins, desk assignment. I am feeling okay again. Then she leaves me and I have to find a restroom.
I am in cubicle land, which should feel also comfortable, but in this cubicle land there are posters about God and Jesus and there are crosses and bible verses and statues and so much overt Christian STUFF that I feel lost again. All these visual reminders that I am a pretender. I have not yet been asked where I go to church and I am mentally rehearsing my answer to this question. I have come up with, in no particular order: Uh. Blushing. Shaking my head and running away. Crying. Blurting out that I am Catholic. So, I have nothing. People are eying me, smiling at me, clearly in a welcoming way and I can feel myself getting a little panicky. I am ridiculous, and I have to pee.
I find the bathroom. The ladies room is gloriously clean and bright and empty and lacks anything remotely biblical and God-related. The bathrooms at Focus would become a refuge for me over what became a lengthy 2 year contract, because, for whatever reason, the bathrooms were religion-free. Like bathrooms should be, I guess.
I enter the stall. I take care of business. There is nothing really religious about a body function. I am skittish but relieved now in more ways than one. Laughing a bit at myself for being so worried, so wound up.
And then the toilet flushes under me.
Of everything that I was expecting, everything that I had imagined might happen on my first day as a fish out of water, this was not it. I reacted with a fairly extreme fear response, as might be expected from someone who is already as jumpy as the proverbial cat on the tin roof.
I scream "Jesus Fucking Christ."
If you are me, this was a perfectly predictable, even rational response. I kind of wanted to laugh. In my brain I am thinking – words have no value. This is no big deal. In my brain, I am thinking I am a stupid stupid idiot.
I am also thinking that someone else might have been in the bathroom with me, thereby assuring my rapid exit from the building and giving whomever had bet $5 that I wouldn't last till lunch the satisfaction of being right.
All of what went through my head in this moment would take too long to write, but here's what made sense: I needed a point of potential recovery. So I say, tentatively, but as if the entire sentiment had been intended, not just the yelling part…
"…is my lord and savior?"
There is nothing beige about me in this moment. Bold and salty yes. Beige, no. Clearly I do not belong here. I cannot do this. I wait for the inevitable escort off the properly.
There was no one in the bathroom with me. Sometimes I wish there had been.
Stupid fucking toilets.
Next: In which I meet a man who may or may not have been an Islamic terrorist as a child but who has very large white teeth and is very charming.
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